Clare County Review & Marion Press Columns

Postcard from the Pines: Stoned

Yup, I‘m stoned, nicely, pleasantly, happily stoned. Although, more would be welcomed, and getting stoned with friends is a great pastime. In fact, there is always room for more stones and rocks of all sizes in my yard. Got your attention didn’t I?
I’m serious about my stones and rocks. I’ve loved them and picked them up since I could walk. I’ve got them in my blood if that is possible. Maybe it is genetic. My mother’s grandparents collected a small mountain of rocks from their Isabella County farm, and more rocks from their neighbors, and built a two-story, rock and cobblestone home in 1905.
In 1910, my dad’s father and grandfather built their two-story cobblestone home on the Berry farm a mile south of Avondale, in Osceola County. Yup, I come from a long line of folks who liked their stones and found a way to display them in a fabulous fashion.
When I was a girl, the cobblestone house where my mother was born, and my parents married, was a marvel to me. It was a castle and a fortress all in one, from the 8 foot, split stone full cellar, to the rocks and stones atop the second story that looked like daisies. My grandfather took very good care of the stone house. It was his home for more than 61 of his 91 years. He became the man of the house when he married my grandmother in 1910, the same year her father died.
There were rocks everywhere, especially on the porch and most windowsills. Special ones were displayed that way as well as all around the front porch. Rocks sat round the woodshed, which was just a short split rock walk from the kitchen door. He even kept a particular black and white rock on his desk. I wish I knew why. It sets on my desk these days.
The kitchen windowsills held Indian artifacts found in the fields; hatchet head, scraper, stones shaped to grind grain, and other ancient implements. Grandpa always kept an eye on the ground. Between what the glaciers left and what the early Chippewa’s lost, he found, and greatly appreciated, each of the stones, rocks and arrowheads the ground gave up.
Boy and man, my grandpa, Max Ward worked the fields of Deerfield Twp. First on his father’s farm and then just a mile away, on what became, his farm for 61 years. Grandpa was so much more than a farmer or a rock lover. He once was a photographer, like many young men at the turn of the 20th century. He was a skilled carpenter and, with the aid of his brothers, built the barn on his father’s farm, and several out buildings on his own. They all outlived him.
Before he and grandma married, each traveled well beyond Isabella County. On their three-week honeymoon they took a Great Lakes steamer to Buffalo, NY, and back. They visited family and saw electric street lighting, an “aero plane,” and an automobile. When they returned to Detroit they attended the Michigan State Fair.
My grandparents then returned to the farm in Isabella County and settled into a life they would enjoy, through good times and not so much, for the next 52 years, until my grandma’s death in 1961. Grandma wrote copious letters and cards to distant family and friends, and grandpa faithfully subscribed to, and read the National Geographic Magazine, every month for more than 50 years. And of course, he always picked up stones.

This week’s photo is of the stone house when it was new. There is still a pile of gravel on the right. Max Ward is on the horse, Carrie Vowles, who would be my grandma, is seated on the porch steps. She is dressed in white. Grandpa also took this photo.

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